Friday, May 26, 2017

Garden Time

DEBORAH CROMBIE: April and May are gardening madness months in north Texas. We have to get plants in before blistering heat shrivels them--and shrivels the gardener as well. We spend so much time and effort getting things just right, then hope we can bear to go outside to enjoy the fruits of our labors!

Speaking of fruits of our labors, I made the mistake of mentioning to the lady at the feed store the other day that I'd been gardening like crazy. Wherefore she whipped out her phone and showed me her acres of perfectly tended vegetables. And told me that she would can everything they didn't eat during the season. I slunk away, tail between my legs. My vegetable plot is a half dozen rather sad plants in pots on the south side of the house.

My garden is flowers, mostly native perennials. To recover a bit of self esteem, I thought I'd share it with you. But upfront I have to say that a lot of the credit goes to my fabulous lawn service guy, Agapito, who, although he runs weekly mowing and edging crews, is a true gardener. He does the major digging and planting, the mulching, and this year, the re-graveling of the flagstone walkways and the re-laying of the patio. I just buy stuff and say where I want it. 

I do get some hard graft credit, from two months potting multitudes of flowers (and my few measly veggies.) And every day there is weeding and picking up, etc., etc., etc. My list of garden chores is endless.

In winter, I find it hard to imagine that the garden will ever be pretty again. Especially this year, as we had extended very cold weather, and we lost a lot of plants ($$$$!!!!) But the spring renewal and replanting results are glorious! I have insanely--because we still have rose rosette virus here, and I've lost nearly two dozen vintage roses in the last three years--planted NINETEEN new roses. Send them blessings.

Here are snippets, and I wish the photos came near doing it justice. The garden wraps all the way around the house, so I am just showing you bits of the front and the back. I would invite you all for a garden tour if I could! And tea afterwards!


Two of the three front berms.

Mealy blue sage in the foreground, with Turk's Cap (not yet in bloom), Red Velour crepe myrtles (also not yet in bloom), cannas, coneflowers, and Mexican sage.

Yucca. zexmenia, yarrow, and skull cap in the foreground. The feathery tree is desert willow, adored by hummingbirds.

Red and purple salvia, guara, skullcap, Calla lilly, and winecup. And the ever-present coneflowers.
 
View from the driveway, which will be gorgeous when the Turk's Cap, acanthus, and Black-eyed Susans bloom.

The coneflowers in their bee-infested glory.


The front walk, with new Red Drift roses.


Two of my new David Austin roses, Lady of Shallot (which has yet to bloom) on the left, and Munstead Wood on the right.
   
The newly relaid patio!!! Thank you, Agapito!!! What a job that was!       
The patio with everything returned to its proper place.

Deck with pots, my haven.

And the new gas grill, the crowning touch!


We began this garden twenty-two years ago on a weedy, neglected ninety-year-old corner lot. It has grown and aged and evolved. Parts are unrecognizable from the original concept. I've learned, and the plants have taught me. Mostly, it is loved, not only by me, but by the birds and bees and butterflies. And, of course, the German shepherds, and my granddaughter, who is happy to pick the flowers, and can run on the relaid patio without tripping!

How about you, REDS and readers? Do you suffer from gardening fever? Are you growing flowers? Veggies? Or a tomato in a pot?

(I should add that I am always sore, and my nails are always FILTHY...)

63 comments:

  1. What a beautiful garden, Debs; gardens are one of the best things of spring . . . and they are the perfect place for an afternoon cup of tea.

    We’ve been getting a lot of rain here lately, so all the plants are happy. We have daffodils, lilacs, roses, and pussy willows tucked around in various garden beds; John has fruit trees in the back yard.
    Every summer we have a vegetable garden, although the strawberries seem to have revolted and no longer grow inside the fence [where the deer can’t get them] so now we have strawberries sprouting up all over the side yard. I have an herb garden and there are pots of white petunias by the front door . . . .

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  2. Beautiful, Debs. It looks cool and refreshing. Peaceful. I love the porch space. I found a wonderful gardener and his wife. They are making it more private and are introducing flowers slowly to see what will live in the very rocky soil. I'm mulching our leaves. The baby oranges are beautiful little things. Most, fingers crossed, will be big juicy oranges in time for Thanksgiving, maybe, but Christmas for sure.

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  3. Debs, I always enjoy photos of your beautiful flowers and plants. A paradise for sure. I have never caught the gardening bug, and I still feel a bit guilty about not being out working in my yard when others are talking about planting this or weeding that. I do love flowers and seeing what others have done though. My daughter does garden--plants, flowers, and vegetables. Oh, well, maybe I might put a few pots on the back porch.

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  4. Good for you for sticking to native perennials, Debs. What a lovely garden! But do you have to water all that lawn?

    I am still picking out the right perennials for my front and newly reestablished back flower gardens (this is our fifth summer in this house), and popping in annuals in the bare spots in the meantime. I confess to feeling very lazy about my vegetable garden this year, and yet I can't imagine NOT having one. So we mustered our energy last week, Hugh moved all the finished compost for me, and I got the tomatoes and cukes planted. The garlic is high and green and the snap peas are a foot tall (and now trellised). So I can sit back for a bit and watch them grow. And I planted three new blueberry bushes, too, in the space where we took out a junk tree last fall that was a pain the neck.

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    1. Edith, I just picked the first garlic scapes yesterday!

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    2. Edith, your garden sounds fabulous! And yes, we do have to water the grass, but it doesn't take as much as you'd think. We stay on permanent water restriction here, even though we've been out of drought for the last few years. So we can only run sprinklers twice a week and not during the day on those days.

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    3. I do spend a big chunk of my summer days hand-watering the potted stuff. It's very Zen, though:-)

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    4. Karen, that's way ahead of us. We don't get scapes until end of June!

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    5. I think the Zen is why I keep gardening. That and sun-warmed tomatoes...

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  5. Your yard looks beautiful Debs! Oh I envy your fruit trees Joan, and your oranges, Reine! We too have strawberries going crazy--they have now busted out of the garden and are creeping everywhere. John is on his annual quest to defeat the local woodchucks--his defenses are homely, but we hope they work. We've been enjoying a bumper crop of asparagus, and I have a lot of rhubarb, but have done nothing with it yet. Recipes anyone??

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    1. Lucy, you can make a simple rhubarb sauce to top pancakes, pound cake, or vanilla ice cream . . . mix together 1/4 cup water. 1/3 cup sugar, 2-1/4 cups of sliced rhubarb; cook and stir until sugar dissolves, rhubarb is tender, and sauce is slightly thickened, about ten minutes. Remove from heat; stir in 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg. If you like the combination of strawberries and rhubarb, increase the sugar to 1/2 cup, add 1 cup unsweetened strawberries with the rhubarb, and cook as above; omit the lemon peel and nutmeg.

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    2. Yum. Going to look for some rhubarb...

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    3. I made Joan's recipe yesterday, except I added cut up strawberries after I turned off the rhubarb sauce. The heat of the sauce cooks the strawberries and they don't get overcooked. Because, as we all know, strawberries don't need any cooking!

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    4. Check out the food blog Smitten Kitchen. She just recently posted a couple recipes with rhubarb. One I think was a crumble that sounded divine. You could also make a strawberry rhubarb pie. I've been looking for it everywhere in the Farmer's markets and can't find it. Maybe we should plant some! :)

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    5. Lucy, my daughter has been enjoying a bumper crop of asparagus, too. I didn't know that it comes back up after its first planting. I think Ashley said it takes a couple of years to produce well? Anyway, I plan on getting some of her asparagus. She put out tomatoes,spinach, and watermelon, too, and she always has herbs going. I'm not sure if she has any other goodies planted, but I know I need to visit her often this summer. Hahaha!

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  6. beautiful gardens! A good year for knockout roses in Cincinnati. Iris finished, lavender about to bloom, daisies and daylilies looking robust for June bloom.

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    1. No peonies? Those were my favorites up north.

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  7. I'm not a gardener, it's all I can do to keep up with the lawn mowing, much less the effort it takes to purposely grow stuff.

    But when I was in Boy Scouts (try not to laugh too hard at the thought of me in that group), I did do some gardening for a merit badge of some sort. I got the badge so I did pretty well for a short period of time.

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  8. It's lovely, Debs.

    I need to replace all my tulips - with daffodils this time. Deer don't eat daffodils. And I'll get annuals for the pots near the porch. Probably after (or maybe not) The Hubby pulls up all the rocks and straightens the border. It's been pushed to almost a 45-degree angle by the earth. But it's been raining pretty constantly. Good because I also have to rip out the "lemon mint" garbage that is now OVERRUNNING my hostas and the soft soil will make it easier to dislodge the invasive root system. Bad because...we can't get outside to do anything because it won't stop raining!

    The vegetable garden right now consists of a sage plant (I had no idea they were annuals) and about four clumps of chives (also annuals) that are flowering and have spread like mad. We are so far behind but...rain.

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Mary, I used to plant tulips every year (they don't naturalize here) in the back garden, but I had to give up because the squirrels would dig up all the bulbs and eat them. Grrr. Also, I have never had a fig off my fifteen year old fig tree because the squirrels eat them before they are big enough to pick, much less ripe. We have a huge native pecan tree and so a plague of squirrels!

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    2. Mary, deer may not eat Daffodils, but our squirrels sure do, or at least they dig up the bulbs and carry them off. Grrr. We've had a very, very wet Spring, and suddenly it's in the 90s! How is a person supposed to get new things in the garden?

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  9. So wonderful! And yes, I just stand and stare at ours, it is so peaceful and beautiful. This time of year is especially great… At the end of each day, Jonathan and I walk around and see what's new and what's gone and how it all evolves. Ours is very English garden, verging on out of control, and mostly white pale pink and pale lavender. And of course, the ducks are the perfect decorations.
    I was just at Hallie's house a few days ago, and her garden is lovely too… Very Zen and perfect!

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    1. Hank, this is my Texas version of an English garden! We actually use a lot of similar plants. I've been madly reading about Gertrude Jekyll (book research) the English Edwardian Arts and Crafts garden designer. Her gardens were absolute heaven!

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    2. Love to read Jekyll. Intrigued by the book research. 😉

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  10. And yes, Debs, we want to come to tea!

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  11. Lucky me, I get to go over to Debs' house for tea from time to time. Although, come to think of it, tea isn't usually what we drink. The back porch is divine, and the front porch is no slouch either, with two excellent porch swings, and lots more flowers. Debs is the only person I know who can get those crappy, aphid-infested miniature roses that turn up at the grocery store around Mother's Day to thrive and grow. I have listened closely to her advice as I've begun my own modest attempts to replace the very severe, square bushes around my very severely horizontal house. In another couple of years, I might have something to brag about.

    And I don't know why she despairs in the winter. Her trees out front are possumhaw hollies, and their bright red berries among the bare branches look like they came straight off a Christmas card. Her garden is gorgeous all year round.

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    1. Thanks, Gigi. And, yes, the possumhaw hollies (more Texas natives) are absolutely brilliant in the winter. The birds strip them eventually, but for most of the winter the bright red berries cheer us up.

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  13. Sorry, trying again - I had some weird cut and pasting that transposed sentences above!

    Debs: I envy your garden space but I would not want to try and grow anything in that Texas heat. I have a large balcony in my Ottawa apartment which faces north and west so I don't get full sun. They were put out 2 weeks earlier (May 15) than last year. They tell us to wait until our first long weekend (Victoria Day or May 2-4 weekend) but I took a chance this year.

    Currently, I have 4 large planters and 4 medium pots of fresh herbs and salad greens. So far I have basil, bay leaf tree, chives, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme for herbs and arugula, spinach and Swiss chard for greens. I still need to get my cherry tomato plant. We are told to wait until Victoria Day - called May 2-4 weekend to plant so much later than further south. I put my plants out earlier that that on May 15.

    Last year's growing season was late (started 1st week of June!) but the summer was warm and dry so I was able to keep everything growing outside until early December (crazy). If I can grow things until late October I am usually happy.

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    1. Grace, that sounds like a very efficient patio balcony!

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    2. Debs - It's less wasteful than buying a bunch of herbs or Swiss chard/arugula at the grocery and half of it goes bad before I can eat it all by myself. And I do like to grow my own herbs so I have fresh ones half the year and can also enjoy different herb pesto during the long winter months.

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  14. Ugh, still duplicating one sentence - but you get the idea. I am not going to try and post this for a third time!

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  15. Kudos to Agapito and Debs! It's a true gardener who lets the garden evolve from year to year. Fingers crossed for your vintage roses--there is something heavenly about the scent of roses under the sun. My strawberries too have escaped and are migrating north for some reason.... The blueberry bushes have survived and the black raspberry canes are out of control since I chopped out the huge bush that grew up in their midst. No oraanges here, but the pear and apple trees have green nubbins of fruit. It's a glorious time of year!

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    1. We don't grow blueberries here (although we get them from East Texas) but blackberries are gorgeous. We don't have any, though--no spot for such thorny brambles.

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  16. This is SO GORGEOUS! It must be lovely to just sit out and enjoy... resisting all the while the urge to pull the errant weed.

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    1. I like to sit out on the deck and write in the mornings (shade time.) But the wind is blowing 25 miles per hour this morning and the humidity is through the roof. Storms coming this weekend!

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  17. Beautiful work! Our association's lawn service takes care of basics, but I have a few "pet plants" that the local fauna have let me keep. They leave alone the irises, day lilies, and jonquils, and I've encouraged clover to keep them fed. Neighbors on either side have done more extensive improvements, a bit against the rules about leaving the common ground "natural," but so pretty that I'm sure they'll get away with it. I already helped them prepare their defense, that they were just removing the invasive honeysuckle, in response to directives from state conservation, which is true.

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    1. Is that Asian honeysuckle? It's invasive here, too, and I don't plant it, even though I love the smell. We have native coral honeysuckle, which has no scent. The hummingbirds love it, though.

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    2. I have star jasmine growing on my fence out front, as do a lot of homes around here. When it starts blooming in February or March it is pure heaven. The scent floats everywhere.

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  18. Debs, you've created an oasis of peace and beauty, for sure. I love all the spots you've made to sit and enjoy the flowers, too! By the way, you have nothing to feel bad about, compared to the veggie garden lady. To each her own, right?

    My garden at home in Cincinnati is mostly perennials, with a rock garden, and now a dry stream we're in the process of finishing. This past weekend we got started on removing 25-foot high bush honeysuckle (an invasive species) at the side of our property where we have the most neighbors. I'm replacing it with some curly willows that I've been told grow ten feet the first year, and eight feet the second. We'll see. I just hope the deer don't eat them first. I also have herbs, and planted some huge pots with potatoes, as a trial. Like Margaret, we are about to have lavender and daylilies bloom, and the clematis is spectacular this year.

    My veggie garden at the farm is doing great this year, thanks to a massive reboot. It had gotten so weedy last year that I covered it with plastic to smother everything, and then had our renters haul manure with which to cover the now-sterile soil. A few weeds are sprouting, but nothing like the massive ones we had before. And the potatoes, beans, onions, lettuce, spinach, radishes, carrots, peppers, kale, artichokes, and kohlrabi seem to be roaring up out of the ground. Of course, we've had ten inches of rain in the last couple of weeks! I just hope the potatoes don't end up rotting.

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    1. Can we work out a long distance produce share?? :-)

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  19. I'm wondering if any of you in other places have had to deal with rose rosette? It's a virus spread by mites, and is just devastating. There is no cure and you have to pull the roses up as soon as you see the symptoms, to try to prevent it spreading. The horticulturists say that what started it here was mass plantings of Knockout roses.

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    1. When I was taking the Master Gardener courses two years ago they warned us against using Knockout roses, for that very reason. But I didn't realize it was spreading to other varieties. That's awful.

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    2. Oh my God, Karen. I've been thinking about doing a FB post on rose rosette. We've lost at least two dozen vintage roses, including the twenty-year-old climbing Cecile Brunners that covered our pergola. I cried for weeks. And the only way to stop it is to educate people to pull roses out at the first sign of the virus. I still see it all over our neighborhood--hence the insanity of planting more roses. But the garden is just not the same without them.

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  20. Debs, thank you for sharing your beautiful photos. Color me impressed. Just because your friend shared stories about growing vegetables and canning what is not used is no reason for you to feel bad. I think your friend was happy to share that with you. My college boyfriend's mother is a gardener and it is a hobby for her. Looking at your photos reminded me of her gardens.

    So interesting that your post today is about gardening. I just started reading a new cozy mystery series called Enchanted Gardens by Bailey Cattrell for an online book club called Cozy Experiences on Facebook.

    Have you seen gardens with tiny houses?

    No, I do not have a garden. Although I enjoy seeing other people's gardens. Our home association has a "garden" though right now it's bare because they are changing to a different kind of garden that will not require as much water.

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  21. Deb, congratulations on your lovely garden. I know it takes a lot of work and more water in the Texas heat. Here we rarely to never water except the newly planted bedding stock. This wet cold spring means everything will be late this year.

    We have carpet roses on the terrace, which my neighbor often cuts. I am not good with flowers in the house, seem to let them go brown and mouldy by day two. Tulips naturalize here thanks to the squirrels, and pansies too. I call our overgrown out of control patch an English country garden, if hostas count. We have a number of varieties and colors. I used to do all the gardening before I got decrepit. Now Julie does it, and she discovered what we all knew, that one is never closer to God/Allah/The Author when pulling a week or planting a flower. Wave petunias are da bomb, and what my English sister called Busy Lizzies. These are the few annuals we bother with.

    The only vegetables, besides the herbs, are tomatoes and yellow wax beans, enough to keep us going all summer long. This year Julie ordered some haricots vert from Burpee. We shall see if we can match the French dirt.

    I am looking forward to trips to the farmers' markets and canning, making jam, pickles, all that sort of stuff. I couldn't last year because the kitchen was being demolished and rebuilt, so we are out of staples like my bread and butter pickles.

    Summer is so short here, sigh. But it is rarely hot, a plus.

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    1. Debs, piggybacking on Ann's comment, doesn't having native varieties help reduce the need to water?

      Years ago, Steve made a film for the Department of Agriculture about xeriscaping, which is planting for the environment, and for the water requirements of the area, in particular. Seems to me that was a criteria, to use native species as much as possible.

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  22. I have garden envy, Debs! Your yard is just stunning. Being in the desert my flowers are in pots - movable from the heat - that go from the front of the house to the back as summer arrives. And I have my trees - peach, plum, pomegranate, and pecan - they all yield a crop and keep me busy with pruning, thinning, harvesting, and EATING! My favorite space is outside on my patio with my plants.

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    1. Jenn, I envy you your fruit trees. And I really wish I could keep the damned squirrels off my figs...

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    2. When we lived in El Paso we were told that anything would grown in the desert as long as it was watered. And that was true for the most part.

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    3. Jenn - I am envious that you have your 4P trees (peach, plum, pomegranate and pecan). I think only the plum tree could survive in Ottawa's short growing season and harsh winter climate.

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  23. Your garden is spectacular, Debs! When we owned a house, we enjoyed a limited amount of gardening, but I have to admit, it's never been a passion of mine. I think I'm in the minority! We now live in a high rise, so no outdoor garden space. I get a dose of beautiful flowers in Pike Place Market, and the University of Washington Arboretum offers some spectacular flora and fauna.

    Debs, you said you learned as you went, but was there someone in your family who first introduced you to gardening?

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    1. Ingrid, my mom was a black thumb:-) I'm not sure I'd have called my dad a gardener (and he had NO interest in growing vegetables) but he loved plants. Patios and decks were always covered with pots of blooming things which he tended religiously, so I guess I picked that up from him.

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  24. I've been in our current home for just over ten years now. Very little yard out front. Inside the fence we have an L-shaped area which is pretty much flower beds following the walkway. I refer to the side of the house as the patio. Sounds better that way! I have a smallish satsuma tree which bears now. They are the sweetest juiciest citrus fruit; so lucky. I have a gardenia bush which I hope will explode into bloom. One flower out there now and lots of buds. Next to it is a turk's cap which will take over the flower bed if I don't prune it. Same thing for the plumbago; it grows and spreads and I refuse to let it crowd my satsuma. We've got a couple of nandina bushes, also known as heavenly bamboo. If I'd know ahead of time about its propensity to spread I'd have vetoed that planting. We've a shrimp plant and a Mexican honeysuckle and they are both doing well. I have to wonder if I put the wrong kinds of plants in a rather limited space. Magnolia tree in the corner that blooms every year. A couple of carnations of India bushes that froze back to the ground, but have survived. Hooray! They look very much like gardenias but no scent. They're in the "patio" area, along with elephant ears, foxtail ferns, philodendron, banana tree, and assorted small stuff. I'm planting various things in the bare patches created by the freeze. My brother traded me a Mexican flame vine for a shrimp plant that sprang up on its own. Did I mention I have a fountain? It looks like a big urn that you'd find in a French Quarter courtyard in New Orleans. This is all a huge contrast to what we had in Minnesota and Ohio. We had plenty of yard/acreage to where I could have a good-sized vegetable garden. I grew tons of tomatoes. I've tried a few tomato plants here and there in my current garden but no luck.

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  25. Ingrid, you might like to know that the University of Washington has a medicinal herb garden. When I was there and had a some time to spare between classes, I'd steal away to walk in the garden. It's another world south of Benson Hall. While you're there, head east, over the Rainier Vista, to the Sylvan Theater with its majestic columns. (Next to the Paul Allen Center for Computer Science.) The gardener responsible for the herb garden has a blog with thoughtful entries every few months accompanied by photos. http://www.uwmedicinalherbgarden.org/
    P. S. I've never commented before and have no clue what I'm doing.

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    1. Maria, I'm so glad you commented and gave me the tip! I've never heard of the medicinal herb garden, but look forward to checking it out. Thanks for the directions and the blog info!

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  26. My mother was always happiest when there was dirt under her fingernails.
    Please show more pictures later in the season when the various "not in bloom yet" plants bloom.
    Libby Dodd

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  27. We have just moved to Greenville, Tx (your neck of the woods, Deb). It is too late for me to get going on my garden. Thank God, the peeps we bought from had a very nice garden. I will be planting veggies in my Earthboxes come the fall. Then I plan on Daffodils and other lovlies for next spring. I am unable to do all the work myself (too old), so our yard service guys help me out. Your garden looks lovely, Debs.

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